The last thing you want is to be left behind the eCommerce curve as we near the end of 2016 and start 2017. What eCommerce trends do you need to stay on top of, while others will fall by the wayside? Read on to find out — we’ll cover everything from mobile payments to cutting-edge analytics tools and more.
Mobile will continue to skyrocket
This is a given at this point — as phones become more and more powerful, and mobile-responsive sites have become better and better, more people are buying on their phones (or tablets) than ever. In fact, as of Q1 2016, smartphones have officially taken over computers as the top source of traffic for eCommerce sites, and by the end of 2017, they’re projected to be 60% of eCommerce traffic.
It’s not for certain, but it’s also likely that with that increase in mobile usage will come an increase in mobile wallet usage. One of the most promising eCommerce trends – mobile wallets haven’t grown quite as fast as expected, with late 2015 estimates saying that 20% of mobile buyers would be using wallets in 2016, but now that we’re in 2016, Apple Pay is still struggling with user retention. That said, mobile wallets seem to be more popular among millennials by a healthy margin. Android users are also more likely to use mobile wallets than Apple users, although Samsung Pay may be a factor there, because it offers technology that lets users pay at most cash registers. At any rate, if your customer demographics skew towards either of those groups (younger people or Android users), mobile wallet integration should be high on your priority list.
Aside from straight-up shopping through browsers or apps on their phones, people will also start using mobile digital assistants to go shopping. Gartner estimates that digital mobile assistants will be assisting in $2 billion worth of purchases within the next two years. Tools like M or Magic (which isn’t AI, but still has a text-based interface) will continue to help overworked, overwhelmed people out when they don’t want to sort through pages of search results to find the perfect item.
Skyrocketing mobile commerce – what you need to know:
- Simply having a responsive site isn’t enough any more. The user experience on your phone should be just as good as shopping on a computer. Check out these mobile UX checklists to make sure your site or app experience is up to par, and if you have an app users can shop within, make sure your onboarding process is on point. (Not familiar with the basics of UX? Here’s a free crash course on user experience design as it applies to eCommerce.) Tools like Instant Articles and the AMP Project can help you create a mobile-friendly blog experience for your site, too.
- Make sure your site is integrated with mobile wallets. This is a fairly easy add-on process with many eCommerce site providers and payment processors, so there’s no reason not to do it. At the very least, hit the big three: PayPal Mobile Wallet, Android, and Apple.
- When it comes to the rise of mobile digital assistants, most of the assistants are simply pulling results from search engines based on keywords the user gives. In other words, if you’ve been slacking on your SEO, now is a good time to brush it up. Check out our guides to SEO for dropshipping sites and SEO for Shopify sites.
Better analytics will inform your decisions
Analytics is one of the most empowering eCommerce trends. As technology evolves, you’ll have more access to more data, from more places. You won’t have to worry about delays in your analytics any more — most platforms are moving to focus on real-time analytics that give you more insight into what your customers are doing now and what you can expect them to do next.
What does that mean for you? Real-time is pretty self-explanatory — the data that’s shown is up to date, not data from yesterday or two days ago. This lets you update your marketing and advertising strategies based on the most current data. Modifying your ad campaigns based on what’s working and what’s not (and using up-to-date data for that decision) can help minimize the spend while maximizing the results.
Predictive and prescriptive analytics are also becoming one of the rising eCommerce trends for your average eCommerce business. The usual type of analytics — descriptive — reports on what’s happened in the past. Predictive analytics go a step further and turn that data into predictions as to what will happen next. Prescriptive analytics go one step further than that and give you suggestions for what to do next to reach your stated goals, based on the data at hand.
Predictive analytics can help you do things like predict search terms and auto-fill them or suggest specific offers or sales to your customers based on their behavior. For another example, Rare.io uses predictive data to automate your email marketing to existing customers, keeping them engaged with personalized offers and emails.
Prescriptive analytics tools are still mostly only available for large enterprise businesses. If you want to get more insight into your analytics, you can look at working with a data scientist (for tips on that, head here).
eCommerce trends: improving analytics — what you need to know:
- Predictive and prescriptive analytics and data will continue to become more accessible to eCommerce business owners (along with real-time analytics).
- Look at integrating tools like Rare.io or Optimove into your current suite of ecommerce apps, or tools like Google Analytics 360 that provide a more in-depth look at your analytics. Other great tools that are staying on the cutting-edge of analytics include KISSmetrics, MixPanel, Ometria, and Hubspot. And Medio uses predictive data to focus specifically on mobile customer acquisition and retention.
Customer engagement and user-generated content will become more important
Customer service has always been important, but as customers have more and more shopping options available, it can’t be ignored. It’s especially important with a dropshipping based business, because the products are the same thing other people are selling — one of the main differentiators you have is how you treat your customers. And customer engagement creates an emotional connection, which keeps customers coming back.
In general, your customer service needs to be top-notch. Your responses need to be fast and you need to respond via whatever channel your customer contacts you on (whether that’s phone, email, Twitter, or Facebook). Using an app like ZenDesk or SproutSocial can help you manage customer communication and respond in time. You might also want to incorporate live chat (which has been growing in recent years) into your site if you haven’t already — here’s a list of 15 live chat apps that integrate directly with Shopify.
User generated content (or UGC) is another way to engage customers. It also has strong side benefits for your business — namely, the ability to repurpose content and create content with less time and effort. For one example, look at ModCloth’s style galleries:
Customers can submit outfit photos to go with their reviews. There’s also the Style Gallery page on their site. MVMT, a watch manufacturer, does something similar by featuring Instagram photos tagged with #jointhemvmt:
Customer galleries like this are becoming more and more common. It’s great for the store (candid shots of your product in action that let people picture it in their life, social proof that people actually buy and use your product) and the customer (new customers get to see what an item looks like in action, customers who get featured are happy to be in the spotlight).
You can also quote customers in blog posts, retweet and reshare customer images and posts from Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, encourage them to send in videos of the product in action (in addition to photos), and host Q&A days on social media.
Last but not least, loyalty programs are another way to reward and engage customers (often while bringing in new customers). A whopping 87% of customers say they want loyalty programs, and another 62% say that the brands that they’re loyal to don’t do enough to reward them. The simplest way to implement this is a points-based system (for example, a dollar = a point, when you get 100 points you get 15% off your next purchase), but there are plenty of other ways to do a loyalty program if you want to get creative.
Make sure you’re thinking about all of these topics as they relate to the other items on this list, too. Any customer service options you have (like live chat, for example, or a contact form on your site) need to be easily usable via the smaller screen on a phone, for example. And using some of the analytics tools mentioned earlier, you can create ultra-targeted email sequences and offers for customers, which are more likely to engage and convert.
Customer engagement — what you need to know:
- Engaging with customers is how your business will stand out, so don’t neglect it.
- Speed isn’t the be-all end-all of customer service, but it is important and will continue to be so, especially on social media. To help customers get the help they need faster, consider putting live chat on your site, if you have the resources to manage it.
- User-generated content is the way of the future — start featuring customer products and posts on your site.
- If you don’t already have a loyalty program set up, now’s a great time to do so.
Customers will expect faster shipping
A few years ago, customers were okay with a 2-3 day turnaround time between order and shipment, and waiting another week or more for the item to get to them. Now? We live in the age of instant gratification, and eCommerce is no different. Customers want shipping to be free and fast. They also want a returns process that’s just as fast and easy. If you’re ignoring all other eCommerce trends, this one is a must.
In fact, Comscore found that…
- 58% of shoppers surveyed would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping
- 68% said they needed to see free returns shipping was available to complete the sale
- 83% of shoppers were willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if the shipping was free
As with anything, these statistics will vary slightly depending on your target market — in 2015, Bizrate found that younger buyers were more impatient when it came to delivery. So if your customers demographics skew towards the young side, offering two-day delivery is a must.
Shipping and returns — what you need to know:
- Offer faster shipping (and offer it for free, if you can). ePacket is one way to do that — you can offer faster international shipping for free.
- Make sure your returns process is easy to deal with. There are many apps that can help you with this — ReadyReturns integrates with multiple platforms, as one example. The Shopify app store has several more, including Returnly, which starts at $9/month. And of course, remember that offering free returns can soothe potentially nervous buyers.
Social selling will become one of the dominant eCommerce trends
Social selling has been rising and it will continue to grow in 2017. Coinciding with the high adoption rates of smartphones, more and more businesses are selling directly on social platforms (ranging from Twitter to Instagram) — something that was considered a faux-pas in the past. Now, it’s just doing business.
The Shopify buy now buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are one example of this. You don’t have to direct customers to a clunky landing page any more — users can buy without ever leaving Twitter. You can also use this functionality to create sales for each social platform and run them at different times, which incentivizes customers to keep up with your social presence and stay engaged. Soldsie and Like2Buy are other options for selling via Instagram.
Speaking of Instagram, don’t forget about Instagram influencers as one of the eCommerce trends. Influencer marketing has a great ROI: a McKinsey study found that it earned, on average, $9.60 for every dollar spent in 2015 (and that number was up from 2014). YouTube and Instagram are the most recommended networks, as influencer marketing seems to work especially well with visual content. This high ROI is probably because customers trust influencers — Twitter stated that nearly 40% of Twitter users have made a purchase as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer. Millennials are especially prone to take recommendations from influencers, with 60% of millennials saying that they’d try a product suggested by a YouTuber.
eCommerce trends: social selling — what you need to know:
- If you aren’t already taking full advantage of social selling, jump in now. Add buy buttons and shopping features to your social platforms and posts. Don’t forget the visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
- Influencer marketing is only going to become more popular (and draw a better ROI) as we enter 2017. If you aren’t sure where to start with it, check out our guide on Instagram influencer marketing and the KISSmetrics guide to influencer targeting.
These are not all the eCommerce trends that will dominate in 2017, but it’s a good place to get started.
- Focus on mobile and mobile payment options (including wallets)
- Find and use up-to-date analytics tools and tools that use predictive data
- Make sure your customer engagement is top-notch, and incorporate UGC into your business and your content strategy
- Streamline your shipping and returns processes, and get your shipping cost as low as possible
- Use social selling and influencer marketing to boost your advertising ROI
Haven’t started your eCommerce store yet even though you keep meaning to? 2017 could be your year and these eCommerce trends back it up. Sign up now for your free 30 day trial with Oberlo.